In a much-needed upbeat sign for the economy, Chinese home prices rose in August for the fourth consecutive month. Some analysts say the jump is due to investors cashing out of stocks and buying property. Others say the trend reflects an undersupplied housing market.
In August, average new home prices inched up 0.3% from July, according to Reuters calculations based on data released by the National Statistics Bureau (NBS) on Friday, the same pace as in July.
Out of 70 cities tracked by the NBS, 35 posted price gains, up from 31 cities the previous month. This resulted in a 1.7% year-over-year price rise on a nationwide basis. It was the first since September 2014. However, prices are still down 2.3% from a year ago according to Reuters calculations based on the bureau’s data.
With the property sector making up 15% of China’s gross domestic product, this is good news.
Big “first-tier” cities did well. Shenzhen topped the list with a 5.1% jump and August and a 31.3% increase from a year earlier. Beijing’s home prices rose 1.1% month over month and 3.0% year over year. Shanghai rose 1.3% and 5.6%, respectively.
Analysts say the increase comes from investors who have cashed out of stock market and moved back into real estate as the preferred investment vehicle.
But price trends are uneven. The price increases are primarily found in the largest cities. Analysts don’t see this marking a market-wide rebound.
With a large inventory of unsold homes in smaller cities, prices continue to fall. This is discouraging new construction in the second- and third-tier cities. New construction starts sank about 17%. Analysts expect this weakness to continue.
The Financial Times has a different take. It noted Friday that 17% of Chinese consumers in a survey it conducted in August said they planned to invest in real estate in coming months. The FT pointed out this was well below the 41% planning to buy stocks.
The FT also noted that the uptick in home prices are recovering in smaller cities as well as large first-tier cities, indicating deeper factors for the rise in Chinese housing prices
“Analysis from FT Confidential Research suggests that the main factor is an undersupplied housing market: demand is recovering at a faster pace than supply is being increased,” the FT said.